A timely question this week that opens the door to some significant questions about weddings and the church and the state...
Last Friday night, a colleague got a panicked call from the couple she was scheduled to marry the next day. They could not find the marriage license! My friend sent out a Tweet of desperation:
Question- what do you do if couple got license and now can't find it the night before the wedding?
Her friends responded with advice that varied by state and denomination. Some said go ahead, just complete the paperwork later. Others said that in their states it was illegal to perform a wedding without a license. What do the Matriarchs think?
In this case there was a happy ending. The couple found the license and sent the pastor a text while she was sleeping.
Sharon, who blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy shares the following…
Speaking as a United Church of Christ pastor: My wedding policy is that the couple brings the license to the rehearsal so that I can complete the paperwork between then and the wedding service. I would have no problem officiating at a wedding service without the license. Actually, this is what I do for same sex marriages whose unions are still not legally recognized in the states where I have served.
Whenever there is a crisis like this, it's helpful to think of what your pastoral role is and what it isn't. The couple's responsibility is to get the license and to make sure the legal steps are followed, which includes getting that license to their pastor. You can help them clarify the options, and you can remain calm, good natured and supportive. If you can sign the license in a timely manner, then do so. If not, they will have to figure out what to do to get legally married.
An idea I find quite appealing is one that some of my colleagues have adopted: The pastor does the spiritual wedding; the couple finalizes the legal part in the legal system; and never the twain shall meet!
Muthah+, who blogs at Stone of Witness adds
I have had this happen only once and it was a wedding that was not in the church. I went ahead and married them and did the paper work afterwards. But I felt really uncomfortable about it.
In the church I do the paperwork the night before at the rehearsal except for my signature. If they forget it at the rehearsal they have to go home and get before I will do the rehearsal. In NY the clergy send in the licence so I signed the paperwork on the day of the wedding and mailed it the next day.
After almost 30 years of doing weddings, I really would like to see the church get out of the wedding business. Our theology on marriage--no matter what denomination-- is questionable at best. The biblical references are suspect also--we need but look at last Sundays lections, but until we understand the meaning of relationship, committed relationship that is not based upon sex, we are not going to be able to articulate what marriage means other than a licence to have sex. But no one seems to need that these days anyway.
OK, I will admit to being a bit jaded.
How about you...excited about weddings, or like Muthah+, a bit jaded? Let's talk about it!
May you live in God's amazing grace+